The Amazing Four Century History of Yorkshire Vets

Yorkshire Vets is a modern, expanding veterinary practice but it is also one of the country’s oldest practices. We trace our roots back in two lines of continuous succession to the very beginnings of the veterinary profession.

Yorkshire Vets Practice Sale Document 1904

William Harrison

William Harrison was born in 1647, probably in the Bowling area of Bradford. His great-grandson, Joshua, born 1748, was a tenant farmer on the Bowling estate. Younger sons of tenant farmers could not succeed to the tenancy and had to seek other employment. His son William, born 1781, became a blacksmith.

At this time the treatment of disease, and especially lameness, in livestock was entirely in the hands of blacksmiths, farriers, and quacks. The first veterinary school in England was not established until 1791.

William’s sons John (b.1819) and Benjamin (b.1827) both became blacksmiths and farriers. There was then a distinction between shoeing-smiths, who simply shod horses and mended farm implements, and farriers who would undertake corrective work including foot trimming and making special shoes, as well as providing other medication.

The Veterinary Surgeons Act

The 1881 Veterinary Surgeons Act provided that no-one could take the title of veterinary surgeon without having been instructed at a veterinary college and passing the examination of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. An exception was made for those who had for five years previously been working as veterinary surgeons. These vets were admitted to the Existing Practitioners List. Benjamin Harrison became an Existing Practitioner.

Vets Invoice from 1890

John and Benjamin appear to have worked from separate premises around Bowling Back Lane as farriers, but in partnership as veterinary surgeons – although John seems never to have applied to be registered as an Existing Practitioner! When Benjamin died in 1885, his elder brother John continued to practise in the firm of ‘J and B Harrison, Veterinary Surgeons’ until his death in 1890.

Harry Newsome

Benjamin had a daughter, Martha, who married a qualified vet, Harry Newsome. Harry had attended the New Veterinary College in Edinburgh which was set up by William Williams (a former Bradford veterinary surgeon) in opposition to William Dick’s school. Harry continued his father-in-law’s practice. During this time he employed a veterinary student, Arthur Huggan Watson. Arthur was from Pudsey, studying at the Royal Veterinary College, London. He qualified in 1902, and he bought the practice on Harry Newsome’s sudden and untimely death in 1904.

On the outbreak of WWI, Arthur volunteered to serve with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps in France and Egypt. Naturally the practice dwindled in his absence, but on his return it quickly grew and he was in time joined in partnership first by Arthur Adams and then by Douglas Smith. Arthur Watson died in 1953.

The partnership continued to grow. In 1971 the practice (by now Adams, Smith and Morgan) merged with the practice of Archie Gracie in Thornton to create the foundations of the practice we have today.

Joseph Shepherd Carter

Archie Gracie’s practice had an equally fascinating history stretching back to 1847. In that year Joseph Shepherd Carter, a farmer’s son from Coley and a former pupil of Hipperholme Grammar School, qualified from the Royal Veterinary College, London. He set up his practice in the centre of Bradford. Joseph and his brother John Henry both became vets, but John practised elsewhere.

Joseph had three sons who became vets. George William qualified in 1875 and practised in Keighley. Joseph Henry qualified in 1882 and practised in Burnley. Frederick Percy Carter qualified in 1883 from the New Edinburgh school. He then joined his father as a partner in the Bradford practice (then at the bottom of Little Horton Lane).

Joseph Shepherd Carter retired in June 1904, having practised until he was over 80. He died the following March. He and each of his sons were awarded Fellowship of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons for their outstanding contributions to the profession. Quite a family!

Frank Boyle Greer

Frederick Carter took as a partner Frank Boyle Greer. Greer qualified from London in 1907 and came to Bradford from Newcastle upon Tyne. On Frederick’s death in 1920 he succeeded to the practice, and subsequently moved it to 14 Ashfield, Great Horton Road (roughly where the main entrance to Bradford University now stands). Greer died in 1944, having sold the practice to Brian Walker. Walker divided the practice into separate small animal and large animal practices. Paul Bottomley (qualified 1947) purchased the small animal practice and it remained in Ashfield until the University required the site. It is now Shearbridge Veterinary Hospital. Mr Gracie acquired the large animal practice, which he moved to Thornton, later merging with Adams, Smith and Morgan in 1971.

So there you have it. Two very different strands of veterinary history. One presaging the origins of the profession itself through farriery, the other going back to the country’s first few trained and qualified vets. Both predating the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ charter (1844) and the first Veterinary Surgeons Act (1881).’

This account was been pieced together over the years by our retired senior partner Mike Clark BVetMed BSc MRCVS. But even he wasn’t here at the beginning!

Yorkshire Vets Heart

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